Colorado Springs’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo welcomed a pair of Amur leopard cubs May 17, adding to the population of one of the most endangered species in the world.
Amur leopards have been on the list of critically endangered animals since 1996 and are the rarest of big-cat species, with only 100 or so estimated to be still alive, primarily in eastern Russia and western China, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The births are the first in the nearly 20 years that leopards have been at the zoo, which is a participant in the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan, according to a press release. The Denver Zoo also saw an Amur cub named Sochi born in 2013.
Cubs are born blind and are extremely fragile in the first months of their lives, but the two Colorado natives came out at an average weight of 2 pounds and showed a quick instinct to nurse from their mother, Anya, said Rebecca Zwicker, animal care manager in Asian Highlands at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
“It always amazes me when a first-time mom embraces the role as naturally as Anya has,” Zwicker said. “She’s a patient and attentive mom. She knows where those babies are at all times. There’s a lot of cuddling, grooming, nursing and cleaning going on, and we’re seeing Anya take time to groom and care for herself, which is equally important.”
A remote camera monitors Anya’s den. The plan is to leave the new family alone for the first eight weeks. The father, Anadyr, won’t have an active parenting role for the cubs — typical for Amur leopards.
The zoo waits 30 days before naming babies.